Orders-in-Council, 1867 to 1924

O​rders-in-Council are legal tools that address administrative and legislative matters of the federal government. These include appointments, transactions between the government and private sector, control of Indigenous lands, and policy items.

Search the records

  • Go to Collection Search and Click on "Advanced Search"
  • In the "All these words" box, enter a keyword such as a person’s name, a place or a subject
  • In the "Database" box, select "Orders-in-Council”
  • For “Date," enter a specific year or time period (optional)
  • For "Specific terms," select "Order in Council number," “Date introduced,” “Date considered,” or “Date approved” and enter it in the box to the right (optional)
  • Click the "Search" button

Search tips

Search by a person’s name in the “All these words” box to explore Orders-in-Council related to

  • Enfranchisement records
  • Civil Service or Military appointments

Search with multiple specific terms by clicking on the “+” button to the right of the text box

Access the records

A search for an Order-in-Council will return a list of results. Each title links to a record with a digitized image or images (if available).

From the list of results, you can click on the item title to view the full database entry. In addition to the image (if available), you will also see record details:

  • Order-in-Council number
  • Date introduced
  • Date considered
  • Date approved
  • Reference
  • Item ID number (not part of the archival reference)

If there is no digitized image associated with the database entry:

Include these details from the database entry when completing the copy or retrieval form:

  • Title
  • Order-in-Council number
  • Date approved
  • Reference

Please note that most of the documents in the database are written in English, the working language of Canada's federal government in the years before official bilingualism.

About the records

This database was created from two series in the Privy Council Office fonds: annual registers (RG2-A-1-d) and despatch registers (RG2-A-2-b). Available images, from 1867 to 1916, are digitized from microfilm copies of the original documents.

Orders-in-Council are legal tools addressing a wide range of administrative and legislative matters.

  • They are generated by the Governor-in-Council according to existing laws and regulations, as in the Public Service Employment Act, or, less frequently, the royal prerogative.
  • They are a formal recommendation of Cabinet that is approved and signed by the Governor General.
  • They are not discussed by Parliament before they have been implemented.

Until 1909, the British Colonial Office communicated with the Government of Canada via despatches to the Privy Council Office.

  • Despatches were often considered, replied to or approved by the Governor-in-Council via an Order-in-Council.
  • These responses are referred to as despatch orders and are accessible in the Orders-in-Council database.
  • A separate registry system (RG2-A-2-b) was used to record the receipt of despatches.
  • Original despatch documents are filed together with Orders-in-Council by date of approval.
    • Despatches can be distinguished from other Orders-in-Council by the letter that follows the Order-in-Council number; for example "1881-0549 E."

Related resources at Library and Archives Canada

Other material relating to Orders-in-Council

Records for Orders-in-Councils

  • Consist of all documents submitted to Cabinet as the official basis for the Order-in-Council and can include memoranda, correspondence, petitions, reports or maps;
  • Historically they were arranged separately by date of approval in RG2-A-1-b;
  • Since 1966, all supporting documentation has been filed with the respective orders or minutes of council (see RG2-A-1-a).

Dormant Orders-in-Councils (Dormants)

  • Consist of memoranda, correspondence, petitions and reports submitted to the Privy Council that did not result in an Order-in-Council;
  • The registers and indexes of Privy Council Office fonds, RG2, Series A-1-d serve as the finding aid to the dormants;
  • To access the dormant records it is necessary to determine the submission number and date of receipt of the specific dormant. Then you can obtain a volume number by using a conversion list found with the finding aids;
  • Currently the "dormants" are not digitized or available online. However, you can use the Orders-in-Council database to determine which records became dormants by paying attention to the date fields on the results page. If there is nothing in the Date Approved field, the record was not passed as an Order-in-Council and became a dormant.

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